‘Unwaan Basri was 94 years old when he heard about Imam Sadiq’s (PBUH) high level of knowledge in all matters. Therefore, he wished to acquire knowledge only from the Imam, who had just entered Medina. However, the surveillance the government had placed upon the Imam, along with the Imam’s own overscheduled hours, did not make it easy for ‘Unwaan to arrange to meet with the Imam.

Yet, his love and respect toward Imam Sadiq (PBUH) had increased so much that he could not forget about visiting the Imam easily. And thus he prayed and requested that Allah (SWT) provide him the opportunity to study under the Imam.

Eventually, he found the opportunity to go to the Imam’s house. He asked permission to enter. And when finally allowed, he sat with the Imam and waited to taste a drop from the Imam’s sea of knowledge.

The Imam said, “O Aba ‘Abdellah(1)! Knowledge is not (just) about studying; rather it is a light, placed within the heart of someone whom Allah wills to guide. Thus, if you seek knowledge, you must first be a true servant and receive it by practicing what you learn. And ask Allah for understanding so that you can comprehend. 

‘Unwaan asked, “O Aba ‘Abdellah(2)!  What are the characteristics of a true servant of Allah?”

The Imam answered, “Three things. The first is not to see that which Allah gave him as solely his own, for servants are not the true owners; rather they see their wealth (as a blessing) from Allah. They use it only where Allah has asked them to.

The second characteristic is that a true servant does not do anything other than his duties and does not think about the results of his duties.

And the third is that a true servant spends all his time obeying the commands of Allah and not doing that which Allah has banned.

A true servant is one who does not view the wealth Allah has given him as solely his. With this view in mind, it is thus easier for him to give what Allah has given him in charity. When a true servant accomplishes his duties, tragedies he faces in life become much more bearable for him. A servant who has occupied himself with obeying Allah will not have time to argue and show off his wealth to the people.

So whenever a servant acquires these three characteristics, the materialistic world, Satan and people become very small for him. He does not seek worldly things or pride for others. He does not have eagerness for worldly positions or luxurious life styles and thus, he does not waste his time pursuing worldly affairs. This is the first level of piety, and Allah says, ‘As for that future Abode, We assign it to those who have no desire to exalt themselves in the earth nor to make mischief and the good end is for the righteous.” (The Holy Quran, 28:83)

Taking a look at our lives, have we prepared our hearts to openly receive the holy light of wisdom and knowledge? Are we about to acquire more knowledge by practicing what we know? Do we ask Allah (SWT) to give us more understanding and wisdom?

O Allah! We seek your refuge from a life spent learning, but failing to practice it in obedience to You, and therefore failing to receive any of that light in our hearts.

(Reference: Hadith ‘Unwaan Basri, Mishkaat al-Anwaar by Ali ibn Hassan Tabarsi)

Roshd website gives its condolences on the 25th of Shawwal, the martyrdom of the origin of knowledge, Imam Ja’far ibn Muhammad al-Sadiq (PBUH), to all Muslims, and especially you dear friend.


1. Nick name of ‘Unwaan Basri

2. Nick name of Imam Sadiq (PBUH)

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